A few months ago, we did a video/post on “How to Sleep on a Plane.” I mentioned that I didn’t use noise-cancelling headphones since I felt like they were uncomfortable to wear. I owned an inexpensive pair of noise-cancelling headphones about ten years ago that I purchased for my work travel, but they ended up gathering dust since I didn’t like them. Not only were they uncomfortable and ineffective at blocking noise, but they also took up a lot of room in my bag. In this video/post, I’m excited to share our Bose QuietComfort 20 review. This a pair of earphones that blocks noises without occupying much space in your bag.
Features of the Bose QuietComfort 20 earphones
To start off, let’s go through the features of the Bose QuietComfort 20 earphones.
1. Noise cancellation:
This may be obvious, but I was impressed by how well the earphones block out noises. I recently used them on a phone call, and when I turned off the noise cancellation, I was shocked that to hear a gardener outside of our apartment building with a leaf blower. It completely blocked out the sound. And when I was on an airplane, the engine sound was nearly silent.
I didn’t have the ability to test it against a pair of traditional Bose noise-canceling headphones, but I would expect it to be a little less effective than the larger headphones that cover your ears. Though it’s a trade-off that I’m willing to make in favor of portability.
2. Portable size:
This was a huge feature for me. I actually carried my regular video editing studio headphones on my trip to England in May, and it took up so much room in my bag. What I love about these earphones is that they’re tiny. The case is about 5.5 inches long by 3 inches wide, and about 1.5 inches thick. It’s much easier to fit it into my bag while conserving space for my other gear.
3. Battery life:
The earphones are rated to last 16 hours and charge within two hours via the included micro USB cable. This should cover you for most long flights. Also, most airplanes used for longer flights have power plugs at your seat for your electronics.
4. Ear adapters:
Not everyone’s ears are the same size. Bose includes three sizes with the Bose QuietComfort 20 earphones so you can determine the best fit for your ears. The adapters have wings that fit in your ear cavity to keep the earphones from falling out.
5. Phone calls:
Like many other earphones, the set has an integrated microphone that allows you to use them for calls. You can use the noise cancellation feature while on a call, but the function does not extend to the microphone. This means that the person you are calling will still hear noises if you’re in a loud environment.
6. Remote control:
The earphones allow you to control your volume and music. There are three buttons on the front of the remote, including a volume up, volume down, and a center button that toggles between different controls. Pressing it once starts and stops your music or phone call. If you double click it, it skips forward. If you triple-click it, it skips backward.
7. Aware mode:
On the side of the remote is one additional button. This button turns on a mode that reduces the noise cancellation so you can hear things like traffic, airline gate announcements, and conversations. This allows you to keep your earphones on instead of having to constantly remove them to order to hear things around you, which is extremely useful when traveling.
8. Available in two versions:
The earphones come in either an iOS or Android and Samsung version. I was hoping that the iOS version would include an integrated Lightning port adapter for iPhones and iPads, but it just has the standard headphone jack.
There is also a wireless version of the earphones called the QuietControl 30. I prefer using a wired version since I use the earphones when traveling to edit videos. I’ve found that there is a slight lag when using wireless headphones and earphones, which is challenging when editing. Also, I want the ability to use the earphones with the in-flight entertainment systems on planes, which generally require you to plug into the headphone port.
Final thoughts on the Bose QuietComfort 20 earphones
Overall, I really like these earphones and recommend them for space conscious travelers. I’m curious to see how they perform when traveling on a long flight. Perhaps they’ll even help me to fall asleep on the plane! Most of all, I appreciate that they take up so little room in my carry-on bag. I’ve recently felt overloaded with all the gear that we’re carrying, so any reduction in weight is a move in the right direction.
As of August 2018, the earphones cost $250, so they are pricey. It’s certainly an investment, but if you’re looking for an alternative to the bulky noise-cancelling headphones that you see most people using, these might be a great fit for you.
Tips and considerations when considering noise-cancelling headphones/earphones
Lastly, I want to share some tips if you decide to get noise-cancelling earphones or headphones.
1. Adapters for iOS users:
If you opt to get a wired version and you’re an iOS user, make sure you bring along a Lightning port adapter. On our recent trip to Zion National Park, I forget to pack one, so I couldn’t use it with my phone on our short flight. I was very disappointed!
2. Sharing earphones:
There have been a few times in the past where Fiona and I have shared earphones, especially when we’ve forgotten to bring an extra pair. We found out that this does not work well with noise-cancelling earphones. I don’t know what it is, but having the noise cancelation in just one ear was very disorienting.
Instead, I would recommend using a splitter and two earphones or headphones if possible. You can get inexpensive headphone splitters on Amazon.
3. Sensitive audio and video work:
I mentioned earlier that Bluetooth headphones/earphones are not the best choice if you plan to use them for any sensitive video or audio work. This is due to the slight lag in transmission between your device and headphone. Also, I would add that noise cancellation is generally not recommended when editing videos or audio since it is not an accurate representation of your audio output levels. While I use mine for work when traveling, I know that I need to double check my videos without the noise cancellation to ensure that the audio quality and levels are acceptable.
4. Noise-canceling discomfort:
One thing you should be aware of when purchasing a noise canceling system is that a number of people tend to feel dizzy or disoriented when using them. There are several articles from travel bloggers and publications discussing the issue. If you purchase a pair, make sure you have the ability to return it if necessary. I feel completely comfortable when wearing mine. Though as I mentioned earlier, I definitely felt weird when I tried to share the earphones with Fiona by only using it in one ear.
Do you use noise-cancelling headphones or earphones? If so, please share your experience below.